“Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, and be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

Today, I stood outside in the cold wind and rain. I tried to avoid the puddles so my feet would stay dry. I complained inside myself because I forgot my gloves in the car and my hands were cold. I drank my hot apple cider as I held my umbrella close, so I could stay as warm as possible. Others crowded around me, avoiding the puddles too with coffee (or tea) warming their cold hands. Umbrellas in an array of colours completed the scene. Then we waited.

Eventually, we heard the band marching toward us and flags blowing in the breeze. They were followed by a bus carrying the remaining Island veterans. Then came our local city police, RCMP, Army and Sea Cadets, and the local Navy League kids (their first time marching) all carrying wreaths and proudly wearing their poppies. It’s a day to remember. It is a time to remember those that fought in times of conflict so that we could be free. It is a day to honour those veterans still with us; for what they sacrificed for their country.

My grandpa (my dad’s dad) would have been 95 if he was still with us this day.  Each Remembrance Day I think about him and what he must have endured during the Second World War. He was an infantry man. I also had great grandparents who served in war but I never knew them. Today, I think that if even one of them hadn’t come home, I might not exist. Certainly, my dad would never have been born if grandpa hadn’t come home (he was the youngest of 4 kids). From what I remember, he never talked about the war but every year we watched him march in the Veteran’s parade at the Canadian National Exhibition.

In elementary school, I did not understand the gist of Remembrance Day. I do know that we always had a school assembly. We made posters and wore our poppies on our jackets but I never really understood its meaning. I don’t think I will ever understand war, even if it has been a world constant as far back as history goes. But I understand now what all of those men and women were fighting for.

They fought so that we could be free.  So that we would have the freedom to choose what we eat, and wear, or drive or work at. The freedom to pray and go to church without fear. The freedom to choose our spouse and how many kids we will have. Indeed, we are free to be whomever we choose to be, and live however we want. We don’t live in a world of constant fear and hate. Every single person alive today, is here because someone gave up their right to live. Remembrance Day is a time to remember them.

As I avoided those puddles this morning, I gave thanks because I was not in a trench filled with rain. As I juggled my apple cider and umbrella, I gave thanks because I had a warm beverage of my choosing and an umbrella to keep me dry. My well being was not dependent on a flimsy shelter and cold bitter coffee to drink. Even as I grumbled for forgetting my gloves, I gave thanks because I had gloves to begin with.  I know that in war, there were many men and women who would never be warm enough.

As I listened to the cannons boom in the distance, I gave thanks because I only hear them at this time of year — in remembrance of our fallen soldiers. I do not hear gunshots every day and night as I similarly hope to survive.  So, to all the brave men and women who are still with us — a hearty thank you! For those who are no longer with us, I will always and forever be thankful for the sacrifices that you made serving your country.

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